Eating Elephants and Other Unappetizing Things

One of the hardest things about being a Stay At Home Mom, for me, anyway, is that I seem to do a lot but get nowhere fast. I don’t mean that I procrastinate a lot and pass that off as working. (Although, there is that, too.) It’s just that, no matter what I do, it seems as if I have made zero progress. Or if I do make any progress, it is quickly eclipsed and things either go back to the way they were, or worse. (Also, I am sure working moms and parents can equally relate – it’s just that I feel they have a better excuse for the house being a mess or laundry not being done. After all – they’re out working. I’m at home most of the day so shouldn’t I be able to get more done?)

Even though this summer was a lot of fun with our Taiwan Trip, Disneyland, and my Atlanta trip, it threw me off my schedule (okokok, it’s not like I was amazing with keeping this schedule anyway, but it was still passable) and as a result, my house was a disaster. All the detritus from daily living, school, art projects, junk mail, medical bills, etc. would make the flow from outside to our kitchen table to a bag/box swept into the laundry room or hall closet and forgotten about.

Then there was actually cleaning the house so that the bathrooms didn’t resemble a science experiment, the floors and carpets weren’t gravelly from food and crumbs, and the kitchen was not a biohazard waste site. On top of that, apparently my children have to eat and excrete multiple times a day, bathe, and wear reasonably clean clothes. (And what the heck, man? Not only are there diapers to wash, a family of five can generate loads of laundry in a matter of minutes. And then, the laundry does naughty things and spawns babies. Totally irresponsible.)

Then, there are the things that I would like to accomplish outside of maintaining a home. You know, blog, read, be someone other than a professional caretaker to three tyrannical children. Oh, and perhaps Hapa Papa would like some time to be a human, too. (Oh, who are we kidding? We all know the poor man never gets any time to himself unless he’s “on vacation.” Which he is. Right now. Until late tomorrow night. Lucky bastard.)

Yes, yes. There are things I can do to make my life easier. For instance, I could hire help with either the house cleaning or my children. Unfortunately, I used to have a house cleaner and I realized that I hated it. I turned hyper critical and would find fault in everything. Not to the cleaners’ faces. But after they left, I would be annoyed and the smell of all their cleaning products would permeate the house. Even if I gave them organic cleaning materials, I was never sure they used it correctly or at all. Plus, just trying to work everything into my schedules with the kids’ school and classes – AGH. Perhaps it was that particular cleaner, but needless to say, I was much happier when we stopped. Now if something is not to my satisfaction, I only have myself to blame. Plus, it saves me money.

As for hiring someone to watch my children, that seems ridiculous since I’m the one staying at home. After all, that was the whole point of me no longer working. (And truthfully, I don’t want to work anyway so we can save that particular joy for Hapa Papa.) And yes, I know this is totally a first world problem but again, it is still my problem.

Anyhow, my whole point with this rambling post is that at the end of the day, even though I have cooked, cleaned, and kept three small humans alive, it feels as if I’m just treading water. Barely keeping my place and most likely, losing ground.

Last week, I spent at least three or four hours finally digging out my kitchen table from under three feet of stuff. Then I spent a few more hours clearing out my hall closet and laundry room. It has been less than a week. My kitchen table is already half buried again. My laundry room and hall closet are still holding steady, but I don’t expect it to last. Why? I have guests coming over tomorrow and a birthday party at my house Saturday. Everything that is currently on my table will make a quick escape to the laundry room. I would be more bummed, but why get sad over the inevitable?

It is times like these that I am particularly comforted by the book, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and “Women’s Work” by Kathleen Norris. I have mentioned this book many times in the past, but it bears repeating.

I am reminded that the daily drudgery of cooking, cleaning, and caring for people is a holy endeavor. That I am not merely Sisyphus, continually rolling a boulder up a mountain only to have it tumble back down before it reaches the peak. That I am actually performing acts of prayer, worship, and transformative love. That what seems dreary and horrible is life-giving and beautiful.

I’m having trouble ending posts lately. We’ll just leave it at that. Be blessed, friends.

A Crisis of Identity

One day last week, after walking my two older children to preschool, my youngest son and I walked past a house two doors down and saw a “For Sale” sign in the front yard. On a whim, I took a flyer from the box and when I finally got a chance to examine the specs, I immediately contacted my realtor.

Currently, we live in a home about a five minute walk from this new place. We love the area and particularly enjoy how close we are to all the fantastic schools and parks. We also love the home we are currently in (we bought it when I was pregnant with Cookie Monster) and hadn’t thought to make any changes until I saw this particular house.

The place we’re considering is almost double in size and with three growing children and perhaps one more in the near future, this home would more than comfortably accommodate our family of five (hopefully six)! Other than what my mom considers a bad feng shui front door (it leads to an outgoing street), this house would be an amazing environment in which to raise our kids. Not only would our preschool be two doors down, (I mean, I could leave Glow Worm napping at home and pick up the kids with no problem), but our kids are familiar with the neighborhood and the park down the street.

Obviously, anytime you look at a house double your current one in size and amenities, what’s not to like? With that said, I am in love with the built-in bookcases on the top floor. I love the large rooms, the extra surprise spaces like the office and the bonus room, the lovely built-ins in the kitchen and the office, and the great natural light in all the rooms. The backyard is the perfect size (ours currently has a giant, useless slope in it) and with the spa (or as Cookie Monster calls it, the “comfy comfy”), so much fun. Plus, we are big fans of the third garage space where we can stow all our crap (I mean, essential kid stuff). What a luxury!

What then, is the problem?

(Also, a little too late since we made an offer Friday afternoon.)

Well, here’s the thing. I always considered myself a simple person. I told myself when we moved into our current place that we wouldn’t ever upgrade – even if we did have four children. After all, people live in much smaller spaces all the time. I don’t believe kids have to have their own rooms (and even in the new house, they’d share) or require a ton of space. And when I just had Cookie Monster, it didn’t seem necessary. In fact, even with the three kids right now, our house seems just right. A lot of it is due to the way my house is laid out – it seems much bigger than the actual square footage. But now that the kids are getting bigger and the age range of toys is getting larger, I feel as if our house is just stuffed to the gills with stuff.

I suppose I could just get rid of more stuff (gasp), but let’s not get crazy.

But let’s cut line, here. A huge house with double the mortgage and expenses is NOT a simple lifestyle. A house this size is completely unnecessary and it seems somewhat wasteful in terms of space (oh, the glorious space!), resources, and monetary outlay. We would have to significantly alter the way we spend money (oh, ok – the way I spend money), and we most likely would not be able to have extra classes for the kids (eg: martial arts, dance, piano, etc.), at least, not for awhile. Plus, not only would our mortgage increase a LOT, it would take us thirty years to pay off the house whereas with our current house, we will likely be done by the time Cookie Monster starts college.

It seems to be a giant pain in the ass. But the HOUSE!! It’s BEAUTIFUL! And HUGE! And the built in bookshelves!! (My inner nerd longs for an actual library in my house – complete with a wheel-mounted ladder!!!)

You see my conflict? I almost want the sellers to counter with an offer we absolutely can NOT afford because then the decision is made for me. No moral and existential debate and discomfort. Just a definitive, “No.” But if it works out, then I have an internal crisis! Am I one of those people now? (I mean, we are already, but it is significantly easier to hide when your house is smaller.) Will I be flaunting wealth?

I know. I know. This is totally a 1% problem. But it is still my life and my problem!

Is it moral to have such a large house with its accompanying expenses in a world of such great need? Is this the right type of environment I want to provide for my children? What will I be teaching my children if we move to a bigger house? Is it even as big of a deal as I’m making it? I mean, plenty of people live in big houses and are good, moral, generous people. (I really don’t mean to imply that they are not. This is clearly my personal issue.)

But even more than that, is a bigger house really going to make me happier? Is it worth having to be a lot more careful about our spending habits (which we really should anyway, but right now, there is significantly more wiggle room) and sacrificing an easy lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed? Is this going to be a habit of mine where I am constantly trying to upgrade the outer trappings of our lives? Is my house going to look awesome on the outside but have no furniture on the inside?

Ultimately, I just worry that I’m being sucked into the American lie – that bigger is better at any and all cost. I worry that I am traversing a slippery slope and soon, I will become a person that my college self would find anathema. I worry that this is a step closer to being out of touch with what is the norm and that my “happiness baseline” will gradually increase until I require ever more and more. I worry that I will choose more and more to turn a blind eye to injustice and inequality because it will threaten the way I choose to live. I worry I will become the rich young ruler and that it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for me and my children to enter the Kingdom of God.

I worry that I am being unfaithful and that at the end of days, Jesus will look at me and say he never knew me. That he was hungry and I gave him nothing to eat.

Am I over-thinking things? Or worrying about that which has yet come to pass? (Especially since we don’t even have this house.) How do you resolve such dissonance in your own life? Let me know in the comments.

The Gatekeepers of Heaven

As I’ve gotten older and more life experience (as well as met more people with different life experiences), I’ve become more and more liberal in my theology and thinking. (Oh gracious, I’ve become more and more hippie-like and this disturbs me.)

I feel as if there are fewer and fewer lines of distinction on what it means to live a “Godly” life. Evangelical Christians would have you believe that you have to do XYZ and look a certain way before you are “Saved” but really, I think that’s just bullshit. That’s just the new Pharasaical order.

If you think about it and consider the patriarchs of the Christian/Jewish faith and their lives, they really don’t fit into the nebulous “Christian standards” very neatly. Or at all.

For instance, what about Abraham? He married his SISTER. Ok, HALF-sister, but still. EW. He whored her out repeatedly to other kings (I don’t believe for a second that she always remained untouched). On top of that, he had a concubine because his wife was barren.

What about Lot and his daughters getting him drunk and impregnating them? That’s right. daughtERS. Plural. How drunk do you have to be to not realize you’re having sex with your DAUGHTERS?

What about Israel (aka: Jacob)? He had two official wives and at least two concubines and at least thirteen children (of course, we only know the names of his twelve sons and the one daughter who was raped).

Or Judah, Jacob’s son? He visits a prostitute – who turns out to be his widowed daughter-in-law, by the way – and impregnates her. When he tries to turn her out for being a whore (hypocritical, much?), she sends him proof that it was he who did the whoring.

What about Joseph? He married an Egyptian and had two sons and I’m pretty sure they weren’t brought up in his religion, etc.

Or King David? With his hundreds of wives and concubines, he commits adultery and murder. He may have been a great artist and a man after God’s own heart, but he sure messed up his kids and condoned the rape of his daughter. (Well, perhaps condone is too harsh of a word. But definitely doesn’t do a damn thing about it.)

Or Paul? He told people that it was better to be a eunuch for the Kingdom of God than to be married because then you could devote passionately to the gospel. Somehow, I have a feeling that Christianity would’ve died out if that were the case.

Please note, I am only bringing up the “faithful” in a long line of “faithful” servants. They were deeply flawed human beings – and yet, God still spoke to them and favored them. They were polygamous, murderers, incestuous, adulterers, and really, just a product of their times.

And yet, Christians constantly like to draw boundaries and lines of who belongs and who doesn’t. Okay. Let’s be fair. This is not a problem or distinction known only to Christians. This is a human problem.

If I am honest with myself, I, too, have my own ideas of who gets to be a “Christian” or not. For instance, I have a hard time believing that racists, sexists, misogynists, and hateful people can be “True” Christians. Or really, I have a hard time believing many of the vaunted Biblical heroes would be considered “Christian” by today’s standards. They were some deeply troubled and fucked up people.

John the Prophet? CERTIFIABLY INSANE. I mean, Revelations is one crazy work of fiction, right?

My point isn’t to nitpick people and be the Heaven Police. It is merely to say that God seems to cast a wider net than we do. Case in point: the parable of the vineyard workers.

Here’s the tl;dr version. An owner of a vineyard goes out at 6am in the morning to find workers at the local Home Depot. He picks up a bunch of folks and sets them to working, telling them he’ll pay the full day’s wage at the end of the day. He goes back to Home Depot at 9am, noon, 3pm and again at 5pm. At 6pm, the end of the day, he lines up everyone and starts paying the folks he hired at 5pm. He gives them the full day’s wages. So, the people hired at 6am fully expect to get paid their wages and then some. But when it comes to their turn, they get paid the same full day’s wages. The 6am (and perhaps the 9am workers, too) start grumbling about how it was completely unfair. They should have gotten more wages. What the heck? Was this guy a commie?

The owner gets wind of the complaints and asks the 6am workers, “Hey, did I neglect our agreement? Did you not agree to work the full day for this set amount of wages? Did you not think that was fair at 6am? Then what’s it to you if I am generous and choose to pay the later workers the same amount?”

I love that parable. If not because really, who are we to complain if God is generous?

It’s because we feel entitled to certain blessings and good things and “wages” that we start drawing lines around who deserves what and why. But in reality, who the fuck are we to decide who gets in and out of Heaven? When did God say we were the gatekeepers? And who is to say that God isn’t being generous with the wages in the first place? When did we become so fucking awesome? The appropriate response would be gratitude.

I also love it because clearly, I’m also on the benefiting side of the “last minute” workers – and let’s face it, all they really do is show up for an hour – if even that! It’s awesome. To receive unexpected and undeserved blessings. (That’s what I consider privilege: like, what sex/class/race/orientation/ability/etc. that I’m born into.) The appropriate response, again, would be gratitude.

Anyhow, my point really is that God lets in who He wants to let in and that culture is constantly changing. The only true criteria seems to be you have to be human (this is not to be species-ist) and a sinner. There is no way we would let in Abraham into the holy Church circles as he was. I mean, come on! What we consider appropriate changes with time. Are we wrong? Do we have to go back to Old Testament times? When if a woman was raped, she was given to the rapist as a wife and all the guy had to do was pay a donkey?

I am SO thankful that I do not live in Biblical times. Or any other time other than now. I am also deeply grateful that the pillars of faith were sometimes execrable human beings. That means I may have a chance at Heaven, too.

The Lie of Being Strong

These past few weeks or so, several of my friends have been hit with really hard news and family situations. Reading their status updates on Facebook is heartbreaking and at best, I can post an encouraging prayer or comment. (Not that my friends are actually looking to us to write the perfect comment that would solve all their pain and suffering. If only it could be so easy.)

Of course, being the nosy person that I am, I also read other people’s comments and encouragements. Inevitably, person after person wrote for my friends to “Be Strong” or “You’re Strong” or some variant of “God doesn’t give you things you can’t handle.” The first few just piqued my annoyance. But comment after comment in the same vein started to piss me off.

Why? Because they’re lies. Insidious, invidious lies.

Obviously, people aren’t writing these types of comments to be assholes or unhelpful. They mean them to be encouraging – and perhaps the comments are even taken as encouragement. This is not a diss on the kind and well-meaning people. This is a tirade against the lie.

My friends, if you are suffering, you don’t have to be strong. You don’t have to be a rock or have everything handled or under control. You don’t have to be anything you are not currently.

If you are overwhelmed, be overwhelmed. If you are weak, be weak. If you are spent, be spent. If you are grieving, grieve. If you are furious, be furious. If you are afraid, be afraid.

You have complete freedom to be whatever you are at this very moment. And if in fifteen minutes, how you feel changes – then you have complete freedom to be that as well.

Forgive me if that seems obvious. This is a particular area in which I get riled up about.

You see, it makes me incredibly angry when people who are suffering are told that they can handle things because God wouldn’t give them anything they couldn’t take. (A side note: This post is not to argue the existence or absence of God or address the topic of theodicy. You don’t have to agree with my worldview in order to understand my logical framework within my worldview.)

The idea that God only gives us things we can handle is complete and utter horseshit.

God promises us many things in the Bible; not once does He promise that He only gives us things we can handle.

Things happen to us (whether or not God allows it to happen or actively makes it happen to us is actually beside the point) and many times, we are completely unprepared and ill-equipped. When these things happen to us, they can either push us closer to or further away from God. And when well-meaning Christians tell us that we are strong or we can handle it, they are actually pushing us further and further away from God.

Why? Because if we are feeling weak but then are told that we’re supposed to be able to handle the pain it only adds to our burden. We feel pressure then to act as if everything is okay or be immediately healed when the truth is far from it. We put up a façade and hide from even God because we must be dropping the ball or are spiritually inert if we can’t get our act together.

It’s simply not true.

I get it. After all, 99.9% of the time, the only way out is through. And often, the way to do that is through gritted teeth, digging deep, and putting one foot in front of the other.

But persevering and being needy are not mutually exclusive.

You see, I believe in a good, merciful, and redemptive God. A God who repeatedly offers comfort for the weak. And when people tell us to “be strong,” we miss out on that comfort because we are too busy pretending to not need it. And before we can run to God, we first have to admit we are in need.

Now, I realize that this post is woefully simplistic and barely scratches the surface on the problem of pain and sound reasoning. That’s okay. I’m not really interested in that. Besides, there are far more in depth essays, books, etc. out there by far more talented people. I just want to be a reminder.

God can handle anything we throw at Him. He is neither surprised or flummoxed. God is more than enough for us in our pain. His grace is sufficient.

My Church Dilemma

So here’s the thing. I consider myself a Christian and in theory, I think church is important. I love the idea of community and Bible studies and corporately worshiping with a bunch of other people who also love Jesus and strive to be more like Him. I grew up more or less in the church and even though I had my own particular issues with it, church was an important shaper of my life.

I haven’t really gone regularly to church for a very long time. There was a brief trial period for a few months when Gamera was born, but I fell off the wagon and for various reasons or another (more like excuses, really), I stopped going.

Ideally, I would like to start attending church again. But it is very hard for me to overcome inertia and my own multitude of prejudices and “requirements” for a church that I think would be suited to me. Actually, the hardest part about church is coming to terms that there is no such thing as an “ideal church” (in terms of my personal preferences) this side of Heaven. Also, I’m pretty sure that Heaven is going to be vastly different from what I expect anyway. I only expect to be awesomely surprised.

Anyhow, I’ve been mulling this topic on and off for the last decade or so. You see, there are a few things I would like in a church and thus far, no church in my area hits all of them. (Surprise, surprise.) So now that it’s taken me approximately ten years to come to this conclusion, I figure I should just get my butt into a pew somewhere and just deal with it – but WHERE? What items on my list should take precedence? Especially since I want my kids to attend and the foundation of their faith (or lack thereof) in the future will be laid here.

Here is an arbitrarily ordered list of the things I look for in a church:

– Women in leadership (and not just in Women’s and Children’s Ministries)
– Diverse membership and leadership (in racial and socio-economic sectors)
– Sermons and Bible studies that examine the text from a mostly inductive manner (eg: taking into account style of language, cultural context, audience, etc. vs having a topic and cherry-picking verses to fit the argument)
– Within a 30-minute driving radius because otherwise, it’s too hard to attend and meet people in my community
– Members that are keen on building a deep and intimate community

The sad thing is, just looking for women in leadership pretty much cancels out more than half of all churches. Throw in ethnic and economic diversity and I might as well be searching for a unicorn. So, which should I compromise on?

I’d prefer a place that examines the Bible in an inductive manner – but this, too, is difficult to find. Most churches say they are “Bible-based,” but what exactly does that mean? Does that mean they adhere to ALL the rules/laws in the Old Testament and the New Testament? Or does that only pertain to edicts about homosexuals? But nothing about giving all their money away to the poor, divorce, bringing in the full tithe, and there being no Greek nor Jew, male nor female, etc.?

I think ultimately, I will have to settle.

Also, I will have to actually discuss things with my children and not just leave it up to whatever church we end up at. I think that’s what REALLY bothers me. I am far too lazy for my own good.

Any advice? For those of you who are religious and attend places of worship, what were your criteria? And how did you ultimately end up selecting a place?

The Myth of Meritocracy

ETA: Apparently, this post has attracted a lot of attention. (Much to my surprise although Hapa Papa has graciously mocked me with, “Do you NOT know how the internet works?”) At any rate, if you are new to my blog, might I kindly steer you to my Site Disclaimer & Comment Policy? You don’t have to read it, but you are responsible for adhering to it. I don’t mind if you disagree with me – that is totally your right. Just like it is my right to not allow any personally insulting or attacking comments. Free speech is guaranteed by the government, not my blog. 

When Hapa Papa and I were first dating, he used to mock me for using big words in common, every day speech. He told me that I was being an elitist and that no one normal could understand me so I should stop showing off. I was greatly offended. I told him, “I had twenty SAT words drilled in my head every week from the 7th grade through Senior year in high school. I read over a hundred books a year. These words are a part of my vocabulary. What the hell were YOU doing in high school? Didn’t you study for the SAT?”

Hapa Papa just shrugged and said that he took the SATs once during his senior year. He didn’t study for it. Didn’t really know he could study for it. He just showed up to take the SAT his senior year. His parents had never spoken to him about college other than telling him he couldn’t go to an expensive one. He assumed he’d attend a community college or something like that. His parents didn’t encourage him to go to college. (ETA: For those of you who are new to my site, Hapa Papa is half Japanese and half German. I am Pro SCA5 even at the supposed detriment to my own children.) He knew nothing about college applications. No counselors told him what to do. He only took one AP class (he can’t remember which subject: English or History) and applied only to one school, Cal State LA (CSULA), and got in (along with some scholarships). That’s it.

I was astounded. More like incredulous. I thought his parents and school were horrible.

“They didn’t tell you anything? You didn’t study at all? You just, ‘showed up’ one day to take the test?”

“Yep.”

“Did you go to school in the inner city? Are LA schools really that bad? How is it possible you did not know ANYTHING?”

My sheltered little brain couldn’t conceive of a world in which the parents and teachers did not provide a united push for the sole goal of getting their kids into college. The thing is, Hapa Papa actually went to a pretty good school in LA. (The school where they filmed Grease.) College just wasn’t a big deal for him or his parents. Even now, I still have trouble processing this fact.

This scenario of his would have NEVER occurred in my family or my friends’ families. NEVER. As in IMPOSSIBLE. ZERO% chance.

By the time I was in 7th grade, the next six years of my educational life were geared solely to get into college. I had tutors. Bought SAT books. Took as many AP classes as possible. Joined extracurricular activities in order to look good on my college applications. Took summer school for “easy” throw away classes so I could make room for more AP classes. I had piano and voice lessons. I was in choir and marching band and the Colorguard. Took the SATs (both the original SATs and then the SAT I and II) multiple times in multiple years. Took PSATs. Took assessment tests for the standardized tests. Took multiple AP tests. Went to college fairs and information sessions. Our classes were geared to getting us into as well as succeeding at college.

All my friends were like me to varying degrees. My best friends made up the top 5% of my class and I rounded it out, the dumbest of all my super smart friends. And even then, my weighted high school GPA was well over 4.0. (I’d tell you the exact number but I really don’t remember.) College was NEVER not an option.

Another time, we were hanging out with Hapa Papa’s CSULA friends, (who incidentally, were mostly Latino), and they started reminiscing about college. Wanting to contribute to the conversation and bond with them, I started talking about the dorm life and how the cafeteria food was amazing and like restaurant quality when I realized his friends had all fallen silent and just kind of gave me a blank stare. Embarrassed, my voice petered out and never finished what I had started to say.

Later, Hapa Papa gave me shit for being completely tone deaf to the situation. His friends worked through school and either lived with their parents or in the super cheap fraternity house. Their dorms weren’t fancy and they didn’t have amazing restaurant quality cafeterias. He called me a spoiled little rich girl. I felt foolish and ashamed.

I remember a Latino friend at UCLA telling me how angry he was when he realized just how different his schooling was from the majority of other UCLA students. He felt constantly out of place and kept thinking he didn’t deserve to be at campus even though he was in the top of his high school. He had started to think he was stupid and slow at picking things up when he realized it wasn’t because he was stupid. It was because the other students had ALREADY learned these subjects in high school and were taking them again for an easy “A.”

I remember a black friend at UCLA who was clearly smarter than me, worked harder than me, came from a similar socioeconomic background and completely deserved to be at UCLA and yet, people always assumed he got in because of affirmative action. Even back when I was at UCLA, a time before Prop 209 killed affirmative action, at most there were one or two black students in my classes of three hundred. There were so few black people on campus, even though the student population in the late 1990s was approximately 35,000, they knew all the other black students by sight if not by name.

Where am I going with all this?

This past week, I have seen many of my Asian friends post “No on SCA5” on their Facebook feeds, linking articles on how the bill is racist and discriminatory and how it is a new version of the Chinese Exclusion ActSCA5 would repeal provisions of Prop 209 and allow the State of California to deny an individual or group’s rights to public education on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. In layman’s terms, SCA5 would re-allow CA to use race as admissions criteria for UCs and CSUs. Basically, to re-allow affirmative action in UCs and CSUs.

According to UC data, the UC’s 2013 freshman class was 36% Asian, 28.1% white, 27.6% Latino and 4.2% black. At some campuses, including UC San Diego and UC Irvine, Asians are more than 45% of admitted freshmen this year. As of 2010, Asians made up only 14.9% of CA’s population.

If SCA5 passes and UCs and CSUs want to increase Latino and black student populations, due to the immutable properties of math, Asian and white student populations will decrease. And since Asians make up the predominant group, it is highly likely Asians would be the most affected. Understandably, many people (especially Asians) are up in arms over this.

I get why my Asian friends are angry and upset over SCA5. When I was applying for colleges, I remember debating whether or not I should tick off “Asian” when applying. After all, that could hurt my chances to get into school. And now, if SCA5 passes and isn’t repealed, when it comes turn for my children to attend university, their chances of getting into their colleges of choice will also be impacted.

It doesn’t seem fair. Why should blacks, Latinos, and heck, whites, get my kids’ spot just because of their race? They should work hard, get good grades and EARN their way – just like the rest of us.

But what is fair? On the surface, merit-based ONLY (the status quo) seems fair. But is it?

I want meritocracy to be true. I don’t want to admit that I did not get to where I am by myself – that I had help. But truthfully, I did. I benefited from tutors, better teachers, schools, and environment. I grew up without the expectation of violence. I had trusted advisors (who had already gone to college) show me what I needed to do in order to get into UCLA or similar institutions. Many of my extra-curricular activities were possible because my family had enough money so that A) I could do these things and pay for the materials they required and B) I wouldn’t have to work because I wasn’t expected to contribute to the family income.

In addition, I grew up in an environment where attending college was the rule not the exception. Being Taiwanese and the daughter of two MBA graduates makes it assumed that I would make good grades and go to a good school. Whatever you think of the “model minority myth,” society constantly reinforced the idea that I was smart, great at math and sciences, and would likely become a doctor.

I want to believe that I am singularly awesome and responsible for my success. I don’t want to believe that the black or Latino student who didn’t get into UCLA likely could’ve gotten in and done BETTER than I had they my advantages. Who wants to think that of themselves?

But when I honestly look at myself and my work ethic (or complete lack thereof), if situations were reversed and I was in an environment where succeeding at school was considered being a “race traitor” or I had few examples of academic success or all of society was telling me that I could only be successful as either a rap star or an athlete but never an intelligent human being and that I was most likely a thief, a thug, or a drug dealer and going to be knocked up at fourteen or incarcerated, I really don’t think I would have the mental fortitude or personal strength to overcome all of that. 

Even just from the anecdotes I included at the beginning of this post, without doing any research at all (which also backs up what I am saying), it is evident that there are huge differences in student backgrounds.

Money, neighborhoods, schools, race, and cultural expectations make it impossible to have a level playing field. 

Obviously, not ALL blacks and Latinos grow up in poverty. That is clearly false. However, at 12.6%, Asians have half the poverty rates of Latinos (23.6%) and African Americans (24.2%) in California. (Whites are at 9.8%.) So, even though not ALL blacks and Latinos have to overcome immense hurdles, many do. Besides, I’m not worried about the rich and middle-class black/Latino kids. They would get into the UCs and CSUs without affirmative action. But this helps blacks and Latinos who may not have the same grades (especially weighted grades) or access to AP classes, tutors, etc. and had to overcome overwhelming odds to get the opportunity to attend school.

Furthermore, even though Asian households have the highest median income in America, that fails to distinguish between different ethnic groups with different histories. When divided up by ethnicity, the majority of economic and academic success is concentrated in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian Americans. Cambodians (14.6%), Hmong (16%), Laotians (13%), and to a lesser extent, Vietnamese (26.1%), have college graduation rates lower than the US national average (28%). Additionally, one in five Hmong and Bangladeshi people live in poverty.

These are the Asians most likely to be hurt by SCA5. (Not the vast majority of Asians who are protesting on Facebook.)

There are no easy answers. There are limited spots. But sometimes, people in privilege have to give up some of theirs in order to allow other people a seat at the table. That is the burden and responsibility of being in a “majority” or in a seat of privilege. And in this case, I would consider Asians to be in the majority since they occupy a huge portion of spots at the UCs and CSUs.

Remember, Asians benefited greatly from the advocacy and rights of blacks and Latinos. We benefit from their fights for racial equality yet rarely do anything to help out their causes when we could. We Asians think that we achieved all our successes by ourselves when we wouldn’t even be in the conversation if it were not for blacks demanding their civil rights. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.

How hypocritical for Asians to demand opportunities in situations where we clearly benefit but not offer others that same opportunity where we would NOT benefit? Where would we be in other areas (bamboo and glass ceilings) if many whites did not give up some of THEIR privilege? Where would we be if blacks and Latinos had not fought for equal opportunities in employment, housing, and education?

Though much of our personal successes are due to our hard work, how much of that would have mattered if our rights were not secure in the first place? We Asians forget that we stand on top of the backs of our black and Latino friends as they paved the way and fought for our right to be here. 

What good does it do us if we succeed at the expense of blacks and Latinos? Who will come to our aid when we need it? (And believe me, we will need it.)

We are too afraid and pinning too much of our hopes and dreams on getting into certain schools. The truth is, there are so many opportunities out there. It SEEMS like a zero sum game where there is one pie and fuck it we’re losing some of our slice to blacks and Latinos. But in reality, our kids who would succeed at UCs and CSUs would succeed in many different schools. They will be fine. There are SO MANY pies. (Mmmm… pies…) UCs and CSUs are NOT the only game in town. There are many ways to succeed.

We do not need to fear.

Ultimately, is SCA5 fair? I don’t think so. But until I see Asians rallying with equal fervency against the unfairness of impoverished schools, the many Latino and black kids in underperforming school districts, living in areas of violence, drugs, broken families, and hardship, which, unsurprisingly, leads to it being much more difficult to do well in school (especially if you may be the first kid in your family to go to college), I am going to vote Yes on SCA5.

Suggested Reading:

NY Times: Asian Americans in the Argument

Civil Rights 101

14 Important Statistics on Asian Americans

Poverty in California

Reflections on the Rise of Asian Americans or Don’t Believe the Hype

Intelligence Squared Affirmative Action Debate (Hat Tip: Andrea Lee)

Myths and Realities of Affirmative Action for College Bound Students

Minorities and Whites Follow Unequal College Paths

A New SAT Aims to Realign With Schoolwork

Acting on Faith

The other day, I briefly mentioned in my post about how I used to fake believing I was loved and lovable until I actually believed it. It occurs to me that perhaps I made it sound so much easier than it actually was. So, here is my advice to you if you find yourself in a similar situation (either in not believing you are loved or any type of belief you want to change). Really, it is just cognitive behavioral therapy, but hey, it works.

Stop. (I know. This is exactly what you’ve been trying to do.) But just stop. Stop figuring out why you’re a certain way. Why you’re doing the things you’re doing. Why you feel a certain way. If it’s wrong, the way you’re feeling and reacting. Just stop.

Do something else. Fill your time with something else. Even if it seems like a cop out or running away from who you really are.

Stop.

I found that when I was in the midst of a downward spiral and over-analyzing my actions and motivations that I just kept getting sucked back into a negative feedback loop of just how awful I was, how I was horrible and would never find love and be loved.

Then, I just stopped thinking about it. It was super hard, of course. But I stopped. I stopped journalling because all I did when I journalled was talk about it. I tried to stop talking about it with my friends. I read books that did not trigger these emotions. I watched shows and movies that didn’t trigger these feelings. I actively went out of my way to deny myself these triggers and feelings. I filled my mind and time with busy-ness and activity.

I stopped praying. (It was too much like journalling and wasn’t helpful.) If I DID pray, I would pray something like, “God, help me choose the things that I would choose if I believed I was loved and lovable.” Other times, the only prayer I could pray authentically was, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Then, I lied to myself. I faked it. I pretended to act as if I believed I was lovable and loved. I forced myself to act as if I were a whole and complete person who made good decisions.

Every time I was confronted with my old habits, I would actively choose to do what I thought a normal/healed person would do. I would ask myself, “What would a person who believed she was lovable and valuable do in this situation?” Then I would do it.

I would rigorously police my emotions and thoughts. Sometimes, it was all I could do not to go insane and say, “Fuck it. This is crazy. Who lies to themselves like this all the time and pretends they are ok?” I would despair that in one hour, I would be confronted at least five or six times with my old habits and have to “lie” to myself and talk myself out of it.

But you know, a lifetime of habit and thinking cannot be re-written immediately. It takes time. And eventually, what I was faking became second nature and real. Eventually (and it was a long time – at least several months before I stopped being depressed and sad ALL THE TIME) I was in an OK enough place to go back and examine what happened, why I did the things I did, and doing so no longer made me feel as if I was the worst person in the entire universe.

Eventually, I made it. I believed and actively lived as if I were loved and lovable. (Keep in mind, this took at least a year or more – and I still struggle with this every now and then, but the more I have ingrained in myself the new habit of acting healthily, the healthier I became.)

And you know what? That is what faith is. Choosing to act as if what you believe and hope to be true IS true. Acting before seeing. Shit, it’s even Biblical. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

Of course, this isn’t the ONLY way to go about it. This is how I got through it. And it occurs to me as I write this, that on a much smaller scale, I’ll get through this time of stress with the kids and that my problem with yelling and screaming has to be done the same way I changed my habits of thought. I have to catch myself in the act of yelling and stop. I have to pretend and lie to myself that I am a person who CALMLY deals with (or ignores) my children when I’m angry. And then I have to do it.

It will be hard at first. I will fail and blow it repeatedly – sometimes in quick succession. But then, gradually, I will have brainwashed myself into being a kinder, more reasonable mommy.

Of course, prayer and hope as well. But as my old boss used to say, “Hope is not a course of action.” Hope is fine and good, but it is through the act of doing, of slogging through my crappy temper and purposeful action that is the real work of faith.

I believe. Help my unbelief.